Ariane 6 launch delayed again

The first launch of the new European Ariane 6 rocket will take place no earlier than the fourth quarter of 2023. This was stated by the Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA) Josef Aschbacher.

A prototype of the Ariane 6 rocket at the launch pad of the Kourou cosmodrome. Source: ESA-Manuel Pedoussaut

Ariane 6 is to replace the Ariane 5 rocket, which for many years has been the main workhorse of ESA and launch operator Arianespace. The new carrier will be produced in two main versions Ariane 62 and Ariane 64 equipped, respectively, with two and four solid-fuel boosters. Ariane 62 will be able to carry up to 10.3 tons of cargo to low Earth orbit (LEO) and up to 5 tons to geotransfer, Ariane 64 — up to 21.6 tons to LEO and up to 11.5 tons to geotransfer.

Initially, the debut of Ariane 6 was supposed to take place back in 2022. However, difficulties with the manufacture of various components of the rocket and the consequences of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic led to the fact that the date of the first flight of the rocket was shifted several times. Back in the summer, ESA claimed that the Ariane 6 debut would take place before the end of this year. But then it was postponed to the beginning of 2023.

This transfer was far from the last. At a press conference held on October 19, ESA management announced the shift of the Ariane 6 launch date to the fourth quarter of 2023. As last time, officials did not name the reasons for the new delay. Instead, they focused on the key tests that the rocket would have to go through before it could be sent into space. We are talking about the burning tests of the first and second stages, which will be conducted at the rocket test site in Germany and the Kourou cosmodrome in French Guiana, respectively.

Ariane 6 rocket (Ariane 64 and Ariane 62 modifications) in the artist’s image. Source: ESA

A new modification of the carrier called Ariane 6 Block II was also announced. It will receive a more powerful first stage and increased solid-fuel boosters, which are also planned to be used on the Vega-C rocket. They will increase the carrying capacity of the Ariane 6 by 20%.

Despite the delays, ESA and Arianespace express confidence that the rocket will have a successful future. At the moment, there are 29 orders for Ariane 6. 18 of them were made by Amazon, which plans to soon begin deploying the Kuiper global satellite Internet system

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